SACRAMENTO — The latest –and final — seasonal state snow pack survey confirmed that California had a drier-than-normal winter. The snow measured just one-and-a-half inches deep at Phillips Station in the Sierra east of Sacramento, and the water content was equivalent to just a half-inch, which is 3 percent of the May average for the location, state Department of Water Resources officials said on Thursday.
Authorities also reported this week that the 130 electronic snow sensors scattered throughout the Sierras indicated that the state’s snow pack water equivalent is 37 percent of the May average. This month’s report comes on the heels of a disappointing and below-average April reading.
“March and April storms brought needed snow to the Sierras, with the snow pack reaching its peak on April 9, however those gains were not nearly enough to offset a very dry January and February,” said Sean de Guzman, chief of the department’s Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecast Section.
The last two weeks of higher temperatures also have rapidly reduced the state’s snow pack, de Guzman added.
Sierra snow melt typically provides about 30 percent of the state’s water supply. The snow measurements help forecasters predict runoff into state reservoirs — and how much water will be available to Golden State farmers.
As of May 1, officials report that reservoirs around the state are in good shape, with the six largest close to or even above their historical averages.
But with spring — and a new fire season — fast approaching, much of California is already drying out. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, half of the state was either “abnormally dry” or “in drought” as of this week.